wow sorry it has been so long. it's been over a month since my last post but it feels like no time at all. i guess since it's nearing the end everything just feels like it's flying by. it's kind of ridiculous. anyway, here's the post i should have gotten done a while ago. the pictures will come up separate because this is already gonna be rather long so..yeah. i'll get them up though i promise.
on the morning of april 27 all the american students met at omars house to go to the airport together. maybe it's just because we're so paranoid in america about security but it seemed a lot more relaxed to me while we were checking in. it was so exciting when we started to descend at the denpasar airport. bali from the air looked like a jungly green paradise. we got off the plane on one of those step ladder kind of things and immediately the stifling heat hit. it was so much hotter than jakarta. i hadn't imagined such a thing to be possible but there you have it. the other afs kids got there i think that morning so they all met us at the airport. it was so great to see everyone again! this is the first time we've been together since the orientation way back forever ago in august. the afs leaders led us back to our bus and we set off, talking and singing the world cup south africa theme version of wavin flag. that was like the song of the day haha. it was great to catch up with everyone and hear about their lives so far. we stopped and ate at a mcdonalds and made quite a mess with our trash. it started out just one sad little tower and escalated into a masterpiece. the waiter who cleared the tray had some mad balance skills. then they took us to a beach! all over bali, on the sidewalks and beaches are these little boxes with flowers and sweets and incense that are offerings to the gods. oh yeah where like almost everyone in java is muslim almost everyone in bali is hindu. you have to mind your step not to trample the shrines which can be hard sometimes because often they're like right in the middle of the sidewalk. the beach we went to was beautiful but not a tourist beach, meaning it was dirty and we were some of the only bules there. we were all taking loads of pictures and then ran into i think a school group or something who were delighted to meet bules who are now more or less fluent in bahasa. we took a ton of pictures together. i think it was a good 15 minutes before we managed to convince the leader that we needed to go. our afs leaders abandoned us so we were left to deal with it on our own haha. we walked up and down the beach and then back to the bus to head to the hotel. so the hotel.. well it was not what anyone had expected. i guess that's just kind of the rhythm here though, keep your mind open and expect the unexpected and roll with it. it was laid out more motel style, like it was all outdoor and in front of each room was a little porch. the rooms were a sight. the source of ac was a sad little fan, but the windows were just covered with a screen so the night air could filter in. the beds and floors looked pretty grimy. the bathroom was traditional style, where the way you shower is scooping icy water out of a tile box with a ladle and dumping it over yourself. luckily we were only scheduled to stay at this hotel for 2 of the 4 nights haha. omar and katrin talked to our leaders and got them to let us go out and explore all night. they were really chill about everything. so everyone got cleaned up and then we were set loose to explore denpasar by night. we all smashed into an angkot but only got like a block before it broke down so everyone got out and pushed it until it came back to life. we did karaoke for a while, which was basically everyone sharing the microphones and screaming along to every song. great fun. after our hour ran out we went and checked out a club. one of the security guards offered us a family discount- he let us all in for free. we were the only people there, i guess who really goes to a club on a tuesday night right? it was a scary club. it looked like a sad saloon theater/a horror movie set. there were these random curtains in the middle of it that greatly contributed to that effect. they had good music though so we danced and had fun. gave everyone working there some good laughs i'm sure. we got back to the hotel around 2 and went to bed to rest up for the next day of adventures.
somehow we survived the entire trip on about 4 hours of sleep a night. a couple times people napped on the bus but no one seemed to have any sleep deprivation problems. in the morning we ate breakfast outside on our porches, but the food was not really cutting it for anyone so we ended up feeding lots of it to the stray cats. our first activity was going to see a barong dance performance. it was so cool. barong is... well I guess it's a tiger. it sort of looks like the chinese dragons that people dance in at chinese new year. and balinese dance is just incredible. look it up on youtube or something. after the performance we got on the bus and drove to a big market. the leaders gave us tips on bargaining and again just set us loose for a couple hours. it was overwhelming at first, just so much to take in and so many people shopping and shoving all kinds of things at you and you don't really know what to do with yourself. we all got good at bargaining though. i wonder if tourist bules bargain or not when they shop. because to them it's already cheap but they don't know how much they're getting ripped off. also because they don't really know how much things should cost, you know? people tried to play that on us but we surprised them with our savvy ;) then we went to the monkey forest. the girls took off all their jewelry and we were told only to bring what we need, so really just a camera. we bought little bags of peanuts to feed the monkeys and the guide in the forest said if they come to you to just give it to them or else they'll bite you. the forest was stunning. so deep and green and mossy. we ambled along and out of nowhere the monkeys came. they're pretty fierce. they see that you have food and just snatch it from you. big monkeys would steal from the smaller ones and scare them off and one of them bit shion's hand and made him bleed. if you tempt them with food they'll jump on your back. i sorta wanted to because that would be like the coolest thing ever but in the end i didn't. they're savage beasts, the monkeys. after the forest we drove us a really twisty road by some mountains to pura ulun dhanu. it's this hindu temple by a lake and wow, it took my breath away. every 6 months there are big gatherings at the temples and there was one going on that day so there were a ton of people praying and burning incense. everything about it was pretty magical. again that night we were free to wander so we got dinner and then played cards in a parking lot because there was no where else to go. a couple people watched us for a while, probably wondering why we decided to hang out there of all places. it was a fun night.
we packed everything up in the morning and drove to nusa dua beach. on the way we passed all these 5 star resort hotels. they looked like castles i can't imagine what it's like inside. at the beach we got sat down at some tables and looked through albums of the different water activities, like banana boats, jet skiing, diving, parasailing, and snorkeling. me, katrin, josh, omar, björn, and shion went parasailing. wow. if you ever want to see how flying might be like, go parasailing. it is so amazing. i felt free as a bird, way up in the sky overlooking the beach and the island. you could see everything! the sky and the sea were so blue and the land was so green it was fantastic. i wish it would have lasted longer, but it was still really fun. then me josh and björn went snorkeling. the water was warm and felt really good. i've never gone snorkeling before so i have nothing to compare this to but it wasn't what i'd always imagined. the tide was changing so the water was all silty and you couldn't really see anything. also i couldn't figure out how breathings supposed to work so I just didn't use my snorkel and dove down until I ran out of breath or my ears started to hurt. defeating the purpose? maybe but it was fun. we swam up to this boat that i think was for real divers but the pirates on board let us come sit and talk for a while and showed us where lombok was. i though it was really cool that we could see it. when everyone got back from their water activities we played in the shallow water and had chicken fights and then showered off and left. we all got killer sunburns. i don't know if anyone put sunscreen on at all. it really it was only a couple hours but the sun must be brighter here, like i said before about the sky being closer to the earth because i've gone to the beach for much longer without sunscreen before but nothing in my whole life even compares to this. it was pretty bad. after the fun beach we went to pura tanah lot. it's another just incredible hindu temple on a beach with all these caves and big rocks surrounding it. in one of the caves there's a holy snake which we got to see. also underneath the rock that the temple is on there's a small cave with a source of fresh water and they say if you wash your face and arms in it you'll have eternal youth and beauty. so we all lined up for that. after you wash yourself there were a couple shaman type guys who flicked water over your head and put a little bit of dry rice on your forehead and a yellow bali flower behind your ear. we wandered around the beach and on the way out we all lined up and took pictures holding this giant python. that was one of the weirdest things i've ever done. they guys who owned it told us they fed it live chickens and human meat haha. and then we drove to kuta, which is like the most tourist filled place in bali. it was swarming with all sorts of bules, mostly aussies. our new hotel was just a short distance away from kuta beach. this new hotel was a big step up from the last one haha. so that night we explored kuta and walked to the beach. i've never gone to the beach at night before, it's so cool. i love it. sleeping that night was rough. my back and shoulders got the worst of the sun so i had to lay on my stomach and just not move at all haha.
after breakfast the next day we went to garuda wisnu kencana. it's a giant sculpture park on a hill in kuta. it's supposed to have statues of all three, the garuda (an eagle and like the symbol of indonesia), the hindu god wisnu, and the kencana (a chariot) but the kencana isn't finished yet. the other two were magnificent. just these giant statues with such incredible detail. they were really beautiful. we stopped at a restaurant for lunch but everyone thought it was too expensive so we went to a big warung instead. it's funny how we view what's expensive and what's cheap now. really the restaurant wasn't so bad, probably around the same what you'd pay in america but i suppose by indonesian standards that is a lot. the food took forever to come at the warung so katrin taught everyone this cup passing game which i've always wanted to know how do to so that was fun. after lunch we went to another beach.this time we were all prepared and brought shirts and shorts to swim in. it was so fun. we went out to the big waves and got smashed around by them. the only bad thing was that there were rocks everywhere and once during a particularly violent wave i got laundry tumbled into some. then me and jillian and judith swam out to the place where there are no waves. we went out so far we got to see the waves break in front of us. getting there was fun but going back to shore was another deal entirely. we got to ride the waves in for the most part but it was a long way to go. for our last night in bali we walked around till we saw an exciting looking club where there were some guys doing poi with fire so we decided to check it out. it had good music but we were all the youngest people there and were severely underdressed. so you know we were getting hit on by nasty old aussies. and unfortunately dancing wasn't very fun because of the stupid sunburns. me and rahel and judith and katrin and jillian spent most of the night outside and talked and stuff. this time we stayed out till 4 though since it was our last night and we wanted to end it with a bang. and that's exactly what we did.
the last day was fun but tainted with the feeling and knowledge that we didn't know when we'd all be together again. the yes kids leave earlier than the afs kids so we won't have end of stay orientation together. we're going to work something out though. the americans and rahel needed to leave for the airport around 2 so we had until then to do as we pleased. the guys all went to the beach and the girls all walked up and down the street our hotel was on, stopping at the little tent shops and practicing our bargaining skills again. there was bad traffic on the way to the airport so when we got there we all said rather hasty goodbyes and checked in, only to find out the flight had been delayed. so that was kind of sad. i wished we'd have had more time for a more proper farewell. all the afs kids here this year are so awesome and so much fun. i think bali is just one of those places where you have a great time, you know it's like a tropical paradise, but having good company adds this whole new level to it. i think it was probably the highlight of my exchange. it was so much fun. while we waited for our plane we remisced about all the good times and laughed at all the funny stories. descending into jakarta was kind of sad. just going back to our regular lives seemed a bit depressing after that trip. me and jillian wandered around till we finally found a taxi and then rode to the afs office together where we hung out and eventually fell asleep on the couches waiting for my host sister, who was also coming back from bali that night, to come get me. the next day i slept for 14 hours, recovering from the sleep deprivation i previously hadn't noticed.
bali is so so different from java. the bules walk around without shirts and shoes and have this attitude like they haven't a care or responsibility in the world, whereas in jakarta a lot of the bules look rather bewildered and almost scared or something of the big city. the indonesians are different too though. i don't really know how to explain it, the cultures just so different. it's weird to see. it just underlined to me again how much indonesia is such a culturally diverse country.
now here i am. one month left in this fabulous country. i have really mixed feelings about leaving. obviously i'm excited to see my family and friends again but it's going to be so hard to leave. i'm kind of scared. i'm going to miss my friends, jillian josh and omar, all the other afs kids, as well as the friends i've made in school and my host family. i just can't imagine not being here, you know? this has just become my reality and my life, leaving everything in america not much more than what feels like a distant memory. it's going to be really weird.
i'll post again soon, both with the bali pictures and with my happenings. again sorry for the gap. until then,